The eastward expansion of NATO has not brought an Arctic cold to Russia-NATO relations. Indeed, the sides are trying to pretend that nothing much has happened. "Our attitude to the NATO expansion is calmly negative," said Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the expansion as a gross mistake, but went to Brussels for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. Defence Minister Ivanov went to the USA for a Russia-NATO conference on combating terrorism. After his return, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will make his first official visit to Moscow.
So, what is Russia's genuine reaction to the bloc's advancement to its borders? Why has Moscow not taken steps to prevent it? And why is it not expressing its displeasure?
There are several answers. First, practice shows that a policy of confrontation never yields any positive results. The only thing one can do in such situations is carry on co-operation in a bid to protect one's national interests, one step after another.
Second, nobody can wait forever for NATO to honour our interests, as proved by Putin's words, "The advancement of the military structure to our borders is certainly being carefully studied by our military specialists and we will plan our military and security policy accordingly."
It is true that Russia and the alliance have become closer to each other in the past few years. We signed the Founding Act and the Rome Declaration on the creation of the NATO-Russia Council. We have joint programmes in such vital spheres of international security as the struggle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. We are working together to create a European TMD system, rescue ships in distress and deal with emergencies. Joint exercises in Russia and Europe are planned for this year and the sides will soon sign the SOFA Status of Forces Agreement on troops temporarily deployed on foreign territory. There are other optimistic examples of joint operation.
At the same time, Moscow knows that the NATO leadership still harbours an unspoken mistrust of Russia, possibly as the successor of the Soviet Union, with predictable consequences. And no diplomacy can do anything about this fact.
American military bases are coming closer to Russia's borders and the military infrastructure of the new members is being improved to store hardware and munitions and accept large formations and aviation, "if need be." Radars that control European Russia are being built in the Baltic countries and Belgian fighters zoom over the borders of the Pskov, Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions. Moreover, the European arsenals of the USA in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Norway and other NATO countries still have about 200 nuclear aviation bombs, which were certainly not designed against terrorists. Who are they meant for then? No answer.
Russia is not concealing its concern. "The Priority Tasks of the Development of the Armed Forces", which are also called "the Ivanov Doctrine," stipulate the elaboration of a comprehensive aerospace operation in the western theatre.
These are facts. For the two sides to really be rid of their "historical fears" and "psychological dependence" on the past, they should make fewer diplomatic pleasantries and become truly sincere in their dialogue. They should speak openly about their concerns and not take steps that can be interpreted as infringing on the national interests of the other side. It will take time for "the former enemy syndrome" to disappear. We can only hope that this will happen within the lifetime of this generation.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building